IBP urges SC review of rule on search warrants after Calabarzon raids
MANILA, Philippines — The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Friday urged the Supreme Court (SC) to review its rule allowing executive judges of regional trial courts (RTCs) in Manila and Quezon City to issue search warrants that could be enforced anywhere in the country.
A 2004 circular issued by the SC allows executive judges, or in their absence, vice-executive judges in Manila and Quezon City regional trial courts to issue search warrants that could be enforced anywhere in the country “in certain instances and provided that the legal requirements are met.”
“Isa po ‘yan sa panukala ng IBP, na kung maaari, i-review ng Supreme Court ‘yung rule na nag-aallow ng isang regional trial court sa Manila na mag-issue ng search or arrest warrant valid all over the country,” IBP National President Domingo Cayosa said over ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.
(That is one of the suggestions of the IBP, that if possible, the Supreme Court should review the rule allowing a regional trial court in Manila to issue search or arrest warrants valid all over the country.)
“Lalong lalo na ‘yung search warrant, mas maganda siguro na kung ‘yung regional trial court na malapit or within sa jurisdiction niya mangyayari o gustong i-search ang magbigay, hindi ‘yung Manila,” he added.
(Especially for search warrants, maybe it is better if the regional trial court that has jurisdiction over the area, and not the one based in Manila, should provide it.)
Cayosa made this suggestion following the deaths of nine local activists in Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon region) after police served search warrants for loose firearms and explosives against them in simultaneous operations on Sunday.
According to reports, the search warrants for the raids were issued by Manila RTC First Vice Executive Judge Jose Lorenzo Dela Rosa, also the presiding judge of Manila RTC Branch 4, and Manila RTC Branch 174 Presiding Judge Jason Zapanta.
Cayosa noted that there are allegations that RTCs have become “warrant factories” for the police. He also said that in the previous months, provincial courts have junked cases that were filed based on warrants issued by Metro Manila courts. The cases, he said, were junked because of lack of sufficient evidence and conflicting testimonies in requesting the warrants.
Cayosa warned that judges who will be proven to have committed irregularities in issuing search or arrest warrants may be removed from their positions and face charges.
“Pwede silang matanggal sa pwesto. Pwede rin silang makasuhan criminally or administratively,” said Cayosa when asked if these judges who issued the warrants would have any liability if later it would be found that irregularities attended such issuances.
Aside from the suggestion on RTCs, Cayosa also urged the SC to make the wearing of body cameras a requirement in serving search warrants, to deter police abuse. He added that body cameras will help secure evidence if the police will be accused of committing irregularities in serving the warrants.
Police earlier defended the legitimacy of their operation that led to the deaths of nine activists, saying the fatalities have engaged them in armed confrontations.
Cayosa, however, stressed that individuals who are subjects of warrants should be alive after the police operation.
He said the deaths of the nine activists are “alarming,” noting that search and arrest warrants should not be “death warrants.”
“Nakakabahala at nakakaaalarma ‘yung nangyari sapagkat sa batas at alituntunin, ‘yung search warrant o kahit warrant of arrest eh dapat buhay ‘yung mga subjects,” he said.
(What happened was alarming because under the law, subjects of the search and arrest warrants should be alive after the operation.)
“They are not death warrants, at ang dapat gamitin ay reasonable force lamang kung sakaling may resistance,” he added.
(They are not death warrants, and police should only use reasonable force if ever there is resistance.)
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